MPs gather to debate ‘radical’ Localism Bill

The government’s flagship Localism Bill will receive its first dose of parliamentary scrutiny this afternoon when MPs debate the details.

The second reading of the Bill is expected to go on into the evening. The Bill, published last month, includes a General Power of Competence for councils, which ministers say will give them the power to do what they like as long as it’s legal.

It also dismantles the Housing Revenue Account and hands new powers to communities to become more involved in planning and to take over the management of local services or assets.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said the Bill is one of the most ‘radical’ pieces of legislation to be debated by MPs in decade.

‘It will fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country. It represents everything the government stands for and is the cornerstone for everything we want to do. It will revitalise local democracy and put power back where it belongs.’

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark added that the Bill represented a ‘reshaping of the constitutional settlement’ and a ‘new page in the relationship between the people and government’.

He said: ‘It is based on belief in the ingenuity of local leaders, pride in the strength of local democracy and respect for people’s common sense.’

But there was robust opposition from Pickles’ shadow, Caroline Flint. She said the Bill failed to live up to its name because it handed new powers to central government.

Flint said: ‘The Tory-led government’s claim to support localism is a sham. Despite their promise to devolve power to communities and local authorities, they’re actually taking power away from local people and giving more to Whitehall ministers.’

 

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